RENO — The Nevada Department of Education is postponing the release of its new school rating system after districts complained that the preliminary numbers don’t seem to make sense.
State Superintendent of Instruction Steve Canavero says the department needs more time to review technical changes to ensure the framework is accurate. He says the Sept. 15 release date has been pushed back to December.
School districts have been concerned about the new rating system for months. Officials in Clark and Washoe counties have warned that many schools would see their ratings decline.
The Nevada Association of School Superintendents said in a letter to Canavero that the preliminary data confirmed those fears. They said the ratings “thrust star classifications dramatically downward for no evidence-based reason.”
The letter complained that the ratings should better differentiate schools’ performances.
“A school should expect to gain reasonable points for reasonable gains,” it said.
Preliminary data had schools — including many in Washoe County School District — disproportionately rated one or two stars, Canavero said. While the goal of the new system is to grade schools on a more rigorous scale, districts maintained that the preliminary ratings did not reflect school quality.
“What was going on in the ratings didn’t necessarily match what was going on in schools,” Ben Hayes, the Washoe County district’s chief accountability officer, told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
The system was designed to comply with the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Schools will be measured on some factors that were previously considered, such as academic achievement, graduation rates, student growth toward proficiency, and college and career readiness. New factors include English language proficiency and whether students are attending school every day.
In theory, a school meeting the state’s growth and academic standards would rate three out of five stars under the new system. Schools that are chronically underperforming would rate one star, and those that are “exemplary” would earn five stars, with all other schools falling somewhere in between.
Clark County School District Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky said the preliminary data raises more questions than answers.
“I knew if I was struggling with some of the concepts and how it was developed, we wouldn’t be able to explain it to our school organizational team members in a way that would help them make informed decisions on data,” Skorkowsky told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Performance data will still be released to schools and parents on Sept. 15 in the Nevada Report Card, but a star rating will not.
“(While it) may appear to be simple — like a Yelp rating — our star rating system is very complicated and complex,” Canavero said.